In a handwritten letter to U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright, disgraced former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha begged for leniency when she and her co-conspirators are sentenced next week after being found guilty of a series of federal crimes.
Kealoha blamed her misdeeds in part on her addiction to prescription painkillers while also apologizing, at least in part, to the people she victimized.
“I accept full responsibility for the widespread destruction that I’ve caused, and I am not going to make any excuses for my behavior,” Kealoha wrote. “I wish I could explain it or even understand it, but I can’t; the only thing I know for certain is that I alone am responsible for all of the damage and destruction.”
Katherine and Louis Kealoha are expected to be sentenced to federal prison next week after being found guilty of a series of crimes stemming from their attempts to frame a family member for the theft of their mailbox.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
A jury convicted Kealoha in 2019 of trying to frame her uncle to cover up a series of other crimes that allowed her and husband, former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, to live a lavish lifestyle in Kahala, one of Oahu’s poshest neighborhoods.
Two other Honolulu police officers, Derek Hahn and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, who were part of a secret detail that was used to carry out the plot, were also found guilty.
Several others, including two police officers, have pleaded guilty to committing crimes associated with the conspiracy and attempted cover up.
In her letter, Kealoha did not specifically mention her uncle, Gerard Puana, whom she tried to frame for stealing her mailbox, or her late grandmother, Florence Puana, whom she bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars via a reverse mortgage scheme.
Instead, she asked forgiveness from those she hurt and extended her own forgiveness “to those in this case that did not speak the truth.”
“Whether it was out of fear or self-preservation I can’t condemn your choice,” Kealoha said. “I have learned that there are lessons concealed in each situation we experience, and owning the truth is the only thing that will lead us to true liberation in ourselves.”
Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department have asked Seabright in court memos to sentence Kealoha to 14 years in prison and to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.
In addition to setting up her uncle and stealing from her grandmother, Kealoha has pleaded guilty to other crimes involving bank fraud, identity theft and her attempts to cover up an alleged prescription drug trafficking ring involving her brother, Rudolph Puana, who is an anesthesiologist.
The prosecutors want Seabright to sentence Louis Kealoha, Hahn and Nguyen to about seven years in prison.
Katherine Kealoha pleaded with Seabright in her letter to allow her to take on their sentences on their behalf, saying that she was to blame for their misdeeds.
“I took advantage of their friendships and of our relationships, and their only mistakes were in trusting me and associating with me,” she said.
In her letter, Kealoha blamed her actions on a prescription pill addiction, saying it clouded her judgment, and referenced a “rare form of cancer, with a high probability of return.”
She said she was seeing a doctor to help with hallucinations and gaps in her memory. In the lead up to her trial, federal prosecutors had raised doubts about Kealoha’s various medical maladies, which included claims that she suffered from transient global amnesia, a condition that causes temporary memory lapses that typically last only 24 hours or less.
“My life was a blurr (sic) of turbulence and chaos, and I was navigating my way in the darkness,” she said.
Kealoha included in her letter to Seabright a certificate of completion for a drug rehabilitation program she participated in while she has been awaiting sentencing at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu. She also listed a number of other educational courses she took while incarcerated there, including on investing, map skills and origami.
The former prosecutor also described her own time behind bars as “inhumane and tormenting.”
“The pain and struggle in prison, often with no ability to contact family for weeks or months, the isolation is painful beyond description or comprehension,” Kealoha wrote. “This kind of agony can only be understood if you experience it first-hand, at time(s) it is a feeling so heavy that it is suffocating.
“I have no doubt that prison is my cross to bear, to atone for my sins and to open my mind to spiritual teachings far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”
You can read Kealoha’s letter here:
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Before you go
Civil Beat readership has more than doubled in the past nine months. That’s incredible growth for which we’re so grateful.
But for a small nonprofit newsroom that provides free content with no paywall, readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism. The truth is that less than 1% of our monthly readers are financial supporters.
To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.